SeniorLiving.org Report on Military Veterans
More than half of all veterans are over the age of 551 and will soon be making decisions about retirement if they have not already. So, how do our nation’s service members plan on living their senior years? We asked military veterans ages 55+ more than 30 questions on topics from retirement to financial security to leisure. Respondents of this survey were almost evenly split between those who had retired and those who had not. Of those not yet retired, more than 60 percent planned to retire within 10 years. We asked questions about retirement plans, financial stability and wellbeing in aging.
One of the biggest hurdles to retirement is saving enough. An impressive 90 percent of veterans we surveyed feel at least minimally financially secure for retirement, and 69 percent feel moderately or very secure. Contrast this with reports that say half of Americans over 60 do not feel that they have saved enough5, and it would appear that veterans are more ready than the general population. Veterans are eligible for retirement support because of their service in the form of military retired pay or the veterans pension program, which could be one reason they feel more financially secure.
Senior Living Communities
Of those veterans we surveyed, only nine percent are currently living in a senior living community, and most have no plans of moving into one. Over 80 percent plan to stay in their home even if they were to need assistance with activities of daily living, which is in line with what American seniors as a whole have expressed6. For most, this preference of staying at home is not due to a dislike of senior living as 77 percent view independent living at least somewhat favorably, and 68 percent view assisted living at least somewhat favorably.
For those veterans who do end up needing help, there is a benefit called the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance program that can be used for assisted living as well as in-home care. Only a small percentage of those who qualify for this benefit have ever applied and it can be worth thousands of dollars per year7.
Leisure and Travel
Veterans understand the importance of leisure activities, with 80 percent considering them either “extremely” or “very” important. Not surprisingly, those who said leisure was important to them were much more likely to be making time for it every day or several times per week.
Veterans want relaxation more than anything from a leisure activity, followed by fun. They plan to relax and have fun in retirement through travel, spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies, and volunteering.
Travel is the number one retirement goal listed by the veteran respondents with almost two out of three listing it, and the same percentage deeming it “extremely” or “very” important. These respondents who feel strongly about the importance of travel also seem to be on track to make it a reality, with 72 percent having included it in their budget. With the average length of retirement at 18 years2, planning financially for long term leisure is an important step in keeping retirement goals.
Thirty percent of veteran seniors report having spent over $5,000 per year recently on travel, suggesting they are a market worth paying attention to for companies in the travel industry. Indeed, there are already many ways for veterans to save money when traveling with discounts on hotels, transportation, entrance fees and more3. While retirement travel often makes people think of far off destinations, many veterans want to see more of their own country with 44 percent planning to only travel domestically.
Though it was behind travel, spending time with family and friends, and pursuing hobbies, over 20 percent of veteran seniors did list volunteerism as a retirement goal. Studies show volunteering is a key way to live a more purposeful lifein retirement, which is associated with increased happiness and a longer life4.
Hearing Loss and Medical Alert Devices
Hearing problems are the most prevalent service-related disability among veterans8, and more than one million veterans receive disability compensation for hearing loss. Almost half of veteran seniors we surveyed have some degree of hearing loss, and a third of those use a hearing aid. This hearing aid usage is higher than the percentage of the civilian population, perhaps because veterans are eligible for hearing aid coverage where those on medicare are not.
Only eight percent report having a medical alert device. This is not surprising given that 96 percent of our survey respondents are under age 69, but falls are the leading cause of fatal injury among seniors. New devices can track health statistics in addition to falls which could help veterans age at home like they prefer.
Veterans at or near retirement want to relax and have fun during their later years, and many seem on track to hit their goals. They are excited to travel and have the financial discipline to make it happen.
About SeniorLiving.org (https://www.seniorliving.org) Research and This Report
We surveyed more than 250 American adults 55 and older who identified themselves as military veterans (active or retired). We asked about their financial preparedness for retirement, what fears they have about retirement, their opinions on senior living options, travel, income and more. All interviews were done in October 2020. SeniorLiving.org is where seniors and their loved ones can find and compare housing options for seniors, including assisted living, in-home care, and everything in-between. We publish research on issues facing assisted living and aging, and cover governmental programs, and economic and social issues facing seniors.
By Jeff Hoyt, Editor-in-Chief, SeniorLiving.org Research
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